Don’t let the headline fool you. I’m not turning into a dating website (though I offer my friends lots of dating advice that they never take). But dates are on my mind.
The Phoenix area is full of big, beautiful, bountiful date trees. Come the end of summer, they begin to hang heavy with fruit. Before it ripens, though, landscaping crews scurry about. They cut the branches down and toss pounds upon pounds of growing dates into the trash. At grocery stores and farmers markets, these same dates sell for up to $10 a pound.
That’s right: Every date tree that gets pruned is a wasted opportunity … to make money, to even feed some people. Sure, they’re tasty. They’re also a great source of potassium, iron and fiber. Yet they just wind up in the trash.
To the best of my knowledge, only Arizona State University is smart enough to harvest and sell its dates (and olives!). The university invited volunteers to prune the plants and take the harvest home. Sure, they’re not a revenue source. But at least the dates aren’t feeding and breeding legions of flies in a trash bin.
Every other municipality and property owner with date trees is squandering a great renewable resource. Considering our economy and the growing interest in being green, is there a better time to tap into an easy, ready-made source of urban agriculture?
I’d love to hear from our local city governments and property owners: Why do they allow this waste to continue? Help them do the right thing: Write to your city council representative. Knock on a nearby business owner’s door and say “hey, I’ll harvest ‘em.” Figure out a way to harvest your own tree.